Supporters united win the day - but forcing out owners will prove much harder
As the spring sunshine turned to dusk, and inside the Emirates Stadium Arsenal and Everton kicked-off in the Premier League, the last of the remaining protesters outside began to disperse, ending a week which had seen the football fans of this country wrestle back some of the power from the greedy, uncaring owners.
The protest was originally planned as one against the proposed European Super League (ESL), but as that crumbled within 48 hours of its announcement, it went ahead as a defiance of the reign of Stan Kroenke and his Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) - an ironic name as little of the way he has conducted himself as owner of Arsenal Football Club can be described as sporting - and even less as entertainment.
As the Chelsea fans outside Stamford Bridge had earlier in the week, Arsenal fans did their bit, singing songs, unfurling banners, launching fireworks. These were individual protests, but never do I recall a time when football fans, even of close rival clubs, have been more united. You had to go a long way this week to find a single proper fan who was behind the crackpot idea which was the uncompetitive, piggy, gluttonous self-promoting ESL.
The atmosphere outside the Emirates was both angry and celebratory - but never threatened to boil over. In fact at times it resembled that of a victory parade, without the trophy, at least so far this season, to show for it.
Fans waved scarves and hung messages around the ground - the most poignant based on David Rocastle’s famous quote read ‘Forgotten who we are, what we are and who we represent’.
Fans of the ‘big six’ clubs have shown that the ESL was the dream of the fat cats, the ‘imposters’ as Gary Neville has called them - and nothing to do with the fans, the communities, the wonderful institutions themselves which have been built on years of history and memories.
The way Leeds United reacted by leaving their ‘Champions League: Earn it’ T-shirts in the Liverpool dressing room at Elland Road on Monday night missed the point entirely. The Liverpool players and management team had been put in the most difficult position - being the one of the ‘big six’ teams playing on Monday, the day when the anger was at its height. It was nothing to do with them, and Jurgen Koop and several Liverpool players knew what they were risking when they spoke out against the plans in the early part of the week. They had been put in an almost impossible position by people who care nothing for their club.
By the time Arsenal played on Friday, much of the anger - if not resentment - had dissipated due to one of the most hastily arranged U-turns you’re ever likely to see.
On the pitch Arsenal continue to disappoint - struggling to maintain their position inside the top 10, despite a European semi-final approaching on which the entirety of their season now rests.
But the questions of whether Mikel Arteta or many of his players are right for the club can wait for another day.
This was, despite all the problems on the pitch, and another loss, a great day for Arsenal Football Club.
Fans young and old came together to show Kroenke how they feel - that they will not tolerate their clubs, built on strong working-class traditions, being turned into emotionless franchises.
Billionaires rarely become billionaires by listening to other people - and the only thing which will make Stan Kroenke sell is the language he talks - money.
If Nigerian tycoon Aliko Dangote can make a huge offer, who knows, but it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Who’s even to know if a Dangote reign would be any better?
But what this week has shown, as I hoped when I wrote my piece on Monday, is that people power is an incredible thing - and if we’re unable to force out the owners, at least we do have the power to scupper some of their self-interested ideas.